WA Senate Passes Bill to Change Police Pursuit Law

Mayors and police across WA push to change 'police pursuit' law | KNKX  Public Radio

Last week, the WA Senate passed Senate Bill 5352. This bill allows a law enforcement officer to initiate a chase if the officer has reasonable suspicion that a person in a vehicle has committed or is committing a crime. Current law sets a higher threshold of probable cause in order to engage in a chase.

Under the measure, crimes for which a pursuit can be undertaken include a violent offense, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, DUI, or Eluding. It limits vehicular pursuits to situations where the subject of the vehicular pursuit poses a serious risk of harm to others.

Additional requirements of the bill include:

  • Other law enforcement agencies or surrounding jurisdictions impacted by the pursuit are notified.
  • The pursuing officer must be able to communicate with others and the dispatch agency.
  • There must be a plan to end the pursuit as soon as it’s practical.
  • The officer must have completed an emergency vehicle operator’s course, updated emergency vehicle operator training in the past two years and be certified in at least one pursuit intervention technique, such as spike strips or other deflation devices.

The bill passed 26-23 with 16 Democrats and 10 Republicans in support. Thirteen Democrats and 10 Republicans voted against it. The bill heads next to the House for consideration.

The bill follows an element of policing reform passed in 2021 in response to the 2020 police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police killings. The goal of the reforms was to reduce the potential for violence and death in police responses.

The 2021 measure toughened the requirements for officer pursuit. Officers now need probable cause to arrest someone before initiating a pursuit rather than reasonable suspicion. Some law enforcement officials and city leaders say the revision emboldened suspected criminals to flee crime scenes before authorities could question them.

Those seeking greater police accountability contend communities are safer as fewer innocent bystanders have been injured or killed with the decline in high-speed chases.

Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, a former state trooper and Snohomish County sheriff, sponsored the bill.

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